Heflin Council proposes major budget cuts, official says no layoffs
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Aug 22, 2013 | 3822 views |  0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEFLIN - Heflin city administrators have done some belt-tightening in order to get from a deficit of more than $200,000 this fiscal year to a surplus of $34,620 in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.

City Clerk Shane Smith said the proposed $2.7 million budget caused a lot of sleepless nights as he and the budget committee hammered it out.

Much of the savings came from reduced payroll expenses and reduced allocations for capital improvements.

“We have not cut anyone’s job and there are no plans for that at this time,” Smith said.

There were several changes in staff over this fiscal year that ushered in new employees, he said. New employees means lower salaries, he added. Additional savings came through attrition as employees have left and their positions have not been filled, Smith said.

In addition, the City Council is considering ending a policy that allowed employees to sell back their vacation time to the city, giving them the equivalent of a 54-week salary, Smith said. If the council members decide to continue that policy, the extra weeks of salary will have to be added into the proposed budget, Smith said.

Policy changes at the Heflin Police Department also mean lower personnel costs, Smith said.

“They do have to accrue overtime hours just because of court cases sometimes and getting their warrants filed,” Smith said. “We’re going to actually give them an overtime stipend. So they’ll have a certain amount that they can spend each month.”

The city also cut allocations for capital projects to $80,000. This fiscal year, the budget included $206,514 in capital expenditures. In fiscal year 2014, capital projects will be paid for with money the city received from the state through the Alabama Trust Fund, Smith said.

The budget doesn’t contain specific projects, Smith said, but the City Council will decide how to spend the money. In addition, the city estimates it will receive another $30,000 from the state through the Alabama Trust Fund in fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1. If that money does come through, it could also be used for capital projects, Smith added.

The city made myriad small cuts in things like contract services, office supplies and special events.

Smith said many of those were made by shopping around or cutting things out completely. However, the lower allocation for special events was made in anticipation of finding sponsors to help cover the cost of events.

Councilman Shannon Roberts, who served on the budget committee, said he’s not sure the city has cut enough.

The proposed budget still doesn’t set aside the city’s proceeds from a 7 cent gas tax for roadwork, Roberts said. The only money the city has in the budget for capital projects is state funding, Roberts said. The budget also doesn’t set aside any money for the city’s debt service, which will increase as the years go by, he said.

However, Roberts isn’t sure there’s much more to cut where it won’t hurt residents, he said.

“I don’t think we can do it all at one time,” Roberts said.

The best bet, he said, is to count on growing revenue. The city is picking up some new businesses including McDonald’s, Smith Farms, an expanded Buster Miles Auto Group and the Nifty Nest, which opened on Ross Street. That should increase sales tax revenue, Smith said. Business license income is also on the rise, Smith added.

“We’re not in good shape,” Roberts said. “But at least we’re not digging a hole anymore.”

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
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